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Registered Nurse Courses and Schools

Learn what registered nurses (RNs) do, and see how to become one. Read on for more information about education programs, including common courses, and get details about licensing requirements.

What You Need to Know

There are three paths to becoming a registered nurse, but competition is high, and candidates will need to rank high in their class and complete prerequisite courses. Graduates of a nursing program will have to pass the licensing examination to become registered nurses before they can provide nursing care to patients.

Responsibilities Take vital signs and record in patient record, administer prescribed medication, provide prescribed treatment, start and monitor intravenous lines
Programs Diploma, associate's and bachelor's degree nursing programs are available
Classes Physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, microbiology

What Are the Duties of a Registered Nurse?

Registered nurses (RNs) work alongside doctors and other medical professionals to treat the medical conditions of their patients. RNs educate their patients about health and wellness while teaching them how to manage medical conditions. They also record patients' medical histories while assessing symptoms. A typical day for an RN might include:

  • Administering medication
  • Treating wounds
  • Starting an intravenous line
  • Taking and recording vitals
  • Observing patients
  • Consulting with doctors

How Do I Begin This Career?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all states require that you graduate from an approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses in order to obtain licensure and begin working as an RN (www.bls.gov). Approved nursing programs include diploma, associate and bachelor's degree programs. Diploma programs may last around three years, might be offered by hospitals and are less common than the other programs. Professional associations offer certifications in various nursing areas, such as pediatrics or surgical nursing.

Where Can I Find Registered Nurse Programs?

Community and junior colleges grant an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) that can be completed in two years while colleges and universities award a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) that takes four years. A few universities do award associate degrees in nursing. Some colleges that offer ADN programs include:

  • Denver College of Nursing
  • San Jacinto College
  • Shawnee Community College
  • Horry-Georgetown Technical College
  • Kent State University
  • University of Charleston

If you're interested in a BSN program, you can choose from many schools across the U.S. In some cases, you can take an accelerated BSN program if you already possess a bachelor's degree in another area. You can also choose to take an online BSN. Some schools awarding a BSN include:

  • Broward College
  • The University of Oklahoma
  • Winston-Salem State University
  • University of Texas at Arlington
  • Thomas Edison State University
  • California State University - Bakersfield

Are There Admission Requirements?

Nursing programs are very competitive and require that you complete program applications and prerequisites to be considered for the program. Prerequisite classes may include chemistry, psychology, algebra and English. Additionally, many programs have a minimum GPA for acceptance into their program and require that you take assessment exams to prove that you are eligible to enter college-level courses.

Which Courses Could I Take?

The curriculum for nursing programs includes both classroom study and supervised clinical experience. Nursing programs provide a comprehensive study of the field, preparing you to care for patients across the lifespan. Courses may include:

  • Pharmacology
  • Human development
  • Medical microbiology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Health assessment

What Online Options Are There?

If you're interested in distance learning options for nursing training, some public and private colleges and universities offer RN to BSN programs online. To enroll, you would need an active RN license. The clinical and laboratory requirements need to be completed at a physical location.

The program may be fully online or a hybrid of on-campus and online work. Lessons may be presented via recorded or live lectures. You'll need a computer with Internet access, an Internet browser and word processing software.